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Using Narrative to Ground Arguments

Kevin English EMWP Demonstration Lesson

Learning Targets

I can reflect on ways narratives are used in real life to make arguments.

I can, through collaboration with others, develop ways I can use narratives in my classroom.

Learning Targets I can reflect on ways narratives are used in real life to make arguments.


80% free/reduced lunch English 9

Co-taught classroom (or “collab” as we call it)

Roughly 30 students Three long-term subs Mandatory common assessments Non-fiction writing requirement

What I Knew

Struggling students need real, authentic reasons for “playing school.”

Reading and writing for academic purposes were not my students’ favorite activities.

Students struggled with reading and writing for academic purposes.

And what They told me:


“They wanted to solve problems, debate, and argue in ways through which they could stake their identity and develop both ideas and functional tools that they could immediately use and share with others.” (Smith and Wilhelm 57)

And what They told me: • “They wanted to solve problems, debate, and argue in ways

“The best way to understand narrative concepts is to compose narratives.” (Fredricksen, Wilhelm, and Smith 2)

Common Core

W.9.1: Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each ...

W.9.3: Write narratives* to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

W.9.7: I can focus my research around a problem to be solved ...

The Prompt

“The administrative team has asked for your input on addressing teen issues within our student body. As teenagers, they feel that you are the most knowledgeable—especially after your recent research endeavors—to suggest ways that they can curtail a myriad of teen issues, including: binge drinking, rape/sexual assault, depression, the impact of divorce, self mutilation (cutting), eating disorders, peer pressure, and suicide.”

Knows and Need-to-Knows


Need to Know


Determining Topics

Determining Topics

Teacher Issues

In your notebook (or a Google Doc), take a minute and compose a list of the “teacher issues” we face.

Students & Research

Two days in the media center using books, magazines, and other available print resources

Two days conducting online research with iPads

Hitting Closer to Home:

MiPHY Data

Hitting Closer to Home: MiPHY Data

But I don’t know how to start ...

Why not tell a story?

The Grain

The Grain
The Grain

Revised Outline

I. Introduction: Explain why your issue is important. Consider using a statistic, a personal story or narrative, referencing a specific code or rule in the student handbook, or a little-known fact about the issue. Be sure to demonstrate its importance to the WMHS student body!

Justification for Narratives

“If we want our students to be better readers, we need to help them become competent and aware

writers. ...

Narrative complements and even

directly serves the other kinds of writing the CCSS call for. Think of how many public policy arguments depend on narratives. Calls for universal health care, marriage equality, extending unemployment benefits are almost always made by spinning out the stories of those who are affected by such policies.” (Fredricksen, Wilhelm, and Smith 154)

When was your last story?

So we took a closer look at why we sympathized with Melinda ...

So we took a closer look at why we sympathized with Melinda ...

What does it say?

What does it mean?

Why does it matter? (Or what does it do?)

Other Mentor Texts?

Other Mentor Texts?

Other Mentor Texts?

Day #1 of Collaboration

Day #1 of Collaboration

Student Outlines

Student Outlines

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders



Make Your Outline


Brainstorm/outline ways that these issues can be addressed.

Working Together:

Discuss the weaknesses and strengths of each “fix.”

Questions to Consider

Why does this narrative matter? Why do the solutions matter?

How can you make your narrative come full circle?

Giving Feedback

Why does this matter?

Independently List

How might narratives work in your context?

Turn and Talk

Share your possible uses of narratives.

What are some other ways that students can go “public” with their products?

Should there be a public component to everything students do?

What are ways of going public without technology or limited technology?

Improvements for the Fall

Real stories vs. fictional narratives? Administrator actually present Possible connection with middle school More analysis of narrative construction and role as “hook” Use more mentor texts -- lit. circles? Introduce prompt before reading!

Things I’m Wondering About ...

How can I really “use” books?

How can I add real audiences and purpose to assignments?

In Defense of the Narrative

Why do students NEED to embrace narrative in argumentative writing?

Where can you see yourself including narrative in your planning?

Muddiest Point?